FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! We hope this Friday finds you enjoying the birth of spring and clinging to the promise of resurrection in all things. Enjoy these posts and podcasts as part of your reading and reflection time.

With love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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Pietà via Matt Schultz (a poem)

Thank God for the Poets via Margaret Renkl (poetry reminds us that life is our birthright…read this opinion piece for the many links to wonderful poems)

Bray & Keane: A Primer on The Book of Common Prayer via The Laymen’s Lounge (a podcast episode providing an introduction, overview, and step-by-step guide)

Making Space for Each Other’s Grief via Michelle Reyes (grief can bind us together if we resist the urge to judge how others grieve)

A Specific Love via Courtney Ellis (finding love–and God’s love–in the small and specific)

How Does an Introvert Emerge from a Pandemic? via Afton Rorvik (an introvert’s guide to venturing out once again)


A Native American Prayer

This week we’re praying a beautiful Native American prayer. I find it to be especially meaningful in the Easter season, when we celebrate the earth’s renewal and all things being restored by Christ.

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The world before me is restored in beauty.
The world behind me is restored in beauty.
The world below me is restored in beauty.
The world above me is restored in beauty.
All things around me are restored in beauty.
My voice is restored in beauty.
It is finished in beauty. Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

On this Good Friday, we hope that these posts, which include music, art, and fiction, help you to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and the coming hope of resurrection.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“Today You Shall Be With Me in Paradise” via The Lent Project, Biola University (a reflection for Good Friday involving Scripture, art, poetry, and music)

The Stations of the Cross via Pádraig Ó Tuama (a guided meditation for Good Friday)

Holy Week via Duane W. H. Arnold, Ph.D. (a brief history of Holy Week and looking ahead to hope)

Ubi Caritas via Joel Clarkson and Joy Clarkson (an arrangement of Ubi Caritas, which commemorates Jesus washing his disciples’ feet)

Gethsemane via Simon Parke (an extract from Parke’s novel, Gospel, Rumours of Love)

Easter Flight: Crucified in the Middle Seat via Leslie Leyland Fields (“This week, Friday, many of us will watch a man take that middle space for us, the place no one wants…”)


A Prayer for Holy Week: Caryll Houselander

A prayer for Holy Week from Caryll Houselander (1901-1954), an English Catholic mystic, poet, and author:

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By Your heaviness and fear
in Gethsemane,
comfort the oppressed
and those who are afraid.

By Your loneliness,
facing the Passion
while the Apostles slept,
comfort those who face evil alone
while the world sleeps.

By Your persistent prayer,
in anguish of anticipation,
strengthen those
who shrink from the unknown.

By Your humility,
taking the comfort of angels,
give us grace to help
and to be helped by one another,
and in one another
to comfort You, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Source


“I Trust That I Can Soar”– An Excerpt from The Seeker and the Monk by Sophfronia Scott

Last week, author Sophfronia Scott released her new book, The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton. Scott mines Merton’s private journals for guidance about life and faith. I love the way she converses with Merton, asking him questions, giving him advice (from time to time), and learning from the monk’s faith and foibles.

Today, I’m featuring an excerpt from this book for our community. In the passage below, Scott describes how she began to pray the Daily Office in the Episcopal Church and, through it, learned to soar.

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Merton recognized his prayer life was often grounded—unable to take off, let alone soar. Though he had time alone in his hermitage, he found the quality of his prayers could still be disrupted by his own lack of focus. Just as any of us can be distracted during prayer and meditation, Merton no doubt had a lot on his mind—schemes for his next publication, communications from his friends, how much wood he needed to chop for his fire, whether the dermatitis he sometimes suffered from on his hands would ever heal.

It’s like his wing-flapping was woefully ineffective and he knew it: “I realize now how weak and confused I have become—most of the time I have simply played around and daydreamed and am sadly unequipped to take a real uprooting. Hence the need of prayer and thought and discipline and the self purification.”

How does one strengthen a prayer life? Maybe we can take a cue from professional athletes: quality practice. Just as they have to practice well to play well, if we cultivate a strong prayer life, we will be strong in prayer. It starts with the discipline of routine. Merton maintained the practice of praying the schedule of the Daily Office as he did in the monastery. He knew walking in the woods and being in solitude helped foster his communion with God, but he would still be subject to daydreams and distractions. In his routine, the discipline of reading his prayers aloud helped him stay on point: “Solitude—when you get saturated with silence and landscape, then you need an interior work, psalms, scripture, meditation.” Note that he’s talking about sacred text, not philosophy or theology. Reciting the Psalms was of particular importance to Merton. Among the belongings he left behind was a tattered copy of the Psalms in Latin, the pages so well thumbed that they are crumbling and the cover has separated from its binding.

I have to admit, for a long time I never understood the point of praying with prewritten prayers or of reciting Scripture to oneself alone in a room. Then, in 2011, I joined the Episcopal Church and learned about the Book of Common Prayer. The church defines the book as “a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity.” Every day, churches and individuals around the world pray the same words from this book for Sunday services, baptisms, weddings, and funerals, in addition to a Daily Office of morning, afternoon, and evening prayers.

I decided to experiment with reciting Morning Prayer daily on my own, sitting on the cushions in front of a lit candle in the small meditation space I keep in a corner of my home office. As my practice went on from days to weeks and from weeks to months, I noticed something different about my thoughts, about the material my brain happened to access in any given moment. In the same way that a song might come to me that I can hum or sing, I now had words of prayer in my mind’s playlist. Instead of thinking, in a tough moment, “It’ll be OK,” I hear, “The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.” Or I hear this, one of my favorites, when I’m getting ready for the day or to speak at an event: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.” I can’t tell you how comforting it is to feel these words, like an invisible security blanket wrapped around my being.

The apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). I believe walking around with words of prayer imprinted within me is a way of doing that. And I understand why it’s important: Because the work of God is ongoing—creation is ongoing. I’m praying to figure out my role in that creation. A wonderful story that explains this well comes from the book The Shack and its film version. The story is about a man whose life and faith are shattered after the murder of his youngest child. He has an encounter with God during which he expresses his anger—really giving God what for—and demands to know why God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. God, embodied by the actress Octavia Spencer, explains she doesn’t make these things happen, nor does she stop them. But she is constantly working to make something of what has happened. She also wants us to know she is always here—especially when the horrific events happen. We are never alone.

Praying without ceasing reminds me of who I am and to whom I belong. And because I remember this, I can trust the air that upholds me when it’s time to glide. I trust that I can soar.


From The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton by Sophfronia Scott copyright © 2021 Broadleaf Books. Reproduced by permission.

Lenten Prayer: Rachel Marie Stone

This week, we’re praying a prayer written by contemporary author Rachel Marie Stone. It looks ahead to the washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

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Lord God,
You sent your Son into the world,
And before his hour had come,
He washed his disciples’ feet.
You had given all things into his hands.
He had come from you, and was going to you,
And what did he do?
He knelt down on the floor,
And washed his friends’ feet.
He was their teacher and their Lord,
Yet he washed their feet.
Lord God, help us learn from his example;
Help us to do as he has done for us.
The world will know we are his disciples
If we love one another.
Strengthen our hands and our wills for love
And for service.
Keep before our eyes the image of your Son,
Who, being God, became a Servant for our sake.
All glory be to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.
Amen.

Source


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We hope you enjoy this round-up of posts that will help you pray, praise, flourish, and write.

Blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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A Simple Prayer Marking One Year of Pandemic Life, for All Ages via Traci Smith (a unison and responsive prayer)

Praise on Pi Day via Lisa Rosenberg (a poem)

How Prayer Can Prepare Us For Death via Kara Bettis (an interview with Douglas McKelvey, author of the Every Moment Holy liturgies)

Flourishing Together: When Racism Affects Us All via Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young (“Let’s walk together and treat each person like an image bearer of God to be treasured”)

How 2020 Disruptions Have Led to Relational Innovations via Dorothy Littell Greco (how some people are creating something new during the pandemic)

Prompts To Get You Writing via April Yamasaki (some questions and reflection prompts to get your creativity flowing)


The Feast of St. Patrick, by Prasanta Verma

Today, March 17, is the Feast Day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. When I was growing up, and even as an adult, although I knew of the holiday, I hadn’t thought much about its origins. My only understanding was the holiday was Irish and celebrated a saint I knew nothing about. When my children were very young, one year in our history studies the curriculum suggested the idea of reading about this holiday and the life of St. Patrick. I went to the library and checked out a few books and read them to my children, amazed at the story, a story I had known nothing about. I didn’t grow up in a liturgical tradition, where perhaps these stories are more widely shared and well known.

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain (which is now England, Scotland, or Wales) in the 5th century. When he was sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. After six years, he escaped, but then returned. Some say his return was because he had a dream that the Irish asked him to come back to their country, and he saw the dream as a message from God. St. Patrick returned to Ireland and converted many Irish to Christianity. He died on March 17, 461, and by then had set up monasteries, churches, and schools. Legends surround him, such as he drove snakes out of Ireland and used a shamrock to explain the Trinity (which explains the use of the shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day).

The Irish have observed the Feast of St. Patrick since the 9th or 10th century. Falling during Lent, Irish families would attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Prohibitions during Lent were set aside for the day, allowing people to eat meat, dance, and feast.

Records show a St Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601, in a Spanish colony in what is now St Augustine, FL. A hundred years later, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in New York City on March 17, 1772 to honor St. Patrick. Enthusiasm grew and other cities joined in celebrating, too.

Today, cities hold St. Patrick’s day parades all over America, with cities such as New York and Boston hosting large celebrations. The New York City St. Patrick’s Day is the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world, attracting over 2 million people, and the parade is older than the country of the U.S. itself.

Chicago began dyeing the Chicago River green since 1962 in honor of the day. Originally, city officials released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye in the river, keeping it green for a week. Today, they use only 40 pounds of dye, turning the river green for only a few hours. People all around the world celebrate the St. Patrick Feast Day, including Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

In Ireland, St Patrick’s day had been viewed mostly as a religious observance, and up until the 1960s, they had laws that forbid bars from being open that day. In 1903, St. Patrick’s day switched from being a holy day for Catholics to an official Irish public holiday. Pubs were closed for the day until the 1970s. Ireland embraced the celebratory side of St. Patrick’s Feast in the 90’s to bring tourist revenue in the country.

Now, the celebration is largely a cultural and secular event and celebration of Irish culture.

People eat foods include corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and champ (an Irish dish made of creamy mashed potatoes and scallions). In 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, the color green became associated with St Patrick’s Day. In the U.S., people wear green, but interestingly, the original color associated with St Patrick was blue. St Patrick’s Day is always on March 17.

St. Patrick’s real name is Maewyn Succat. Patrick means “Patricius” or “Patrick” from the Latin word for “father figure.” It is interesting how far our knowledge of the origins of our holidays has veered from their actual beginnings. Now, when I celebrate, as I make Irish soda bread on this day, I recall the story of a young man who did the unthinkable, going back to his captors, following a call to share good news with those who had enslaved him.

Below is a prayer attributed to St. Patrick.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Sources:
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Patricks-Day

https://www.insider.com/the-history-behind-st-patricks-day-2020-2#the-first-new-york-city-parade-in-honor-of-st-patricks-day-took-place-in-1762-5

https://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/history-of-st-patricks-day

https://www.beliefnet.com/prayers/catholic/morning/the-prayer-of-st-patrick.aspx

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Prasanta Verma, a poet, writer, and artist, is a member of The Contemplative Writer team. Born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills, Prasanta currently lives in the Midwest, is a mom of three, and also coaches high school debate. You can find her on Twitter @VermaPrasanta, Instagram prasanta_v_writer, and at her website: https://pathoftreasure.wordpress.com/.

WEEKLY PRAYER: CESAR CHAVEZ

This week we’re praying with Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), a Mexican American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist. The prayer below reflects his belief in the dignity of all people and the need to come together in prayer, justice, and community. Cesar Chavez Day is coming up on March 31.

Chavez’s prayer is a good one for the season of Lent, when we reflect on where we are going in our spiritual lives and how we might be more present to the suffering and needs of those around us.

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Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.

Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.

Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.

Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.

Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.

Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.

Amen.

Source

Lenten Prayer: St. Ephrem the Syrian

This week’s prayer comes from St. Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306 – 373), an Eastern Christian theologian and Doctor of the Church.

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O Lord and Master of my life!

Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother,
for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Source